Submitted by Luke Gillies
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Start this run from the Upper Mangatawhiri Campground carpark on Waterline Rd heading further away from the direction you came down Waterline Rd to the car park. Continue through the gates to the base of the dam face and soon you will approach a fork in the road, take the left option here heading up hill to the top of the dam face.
Once at the top of the dam face take a right onto Lilburne Rd running across the dam itself crossing the spillway weir at the end of the dam. Continue climbing up Lilburne run until you are about 5 km's into your run and you reach Piggotts Hut. From Piggotts Hut the gravel road narrows down into single track. Only just beyond the trailhead you will see the Earnies Track/Rata Ridge Track Junction - Take Rata on your right.
You have now entered trail heaven!! Rata Ridge is a loop track so ignore any track options to your left and always continue right. From the start of the Rata track you will descend through lush mature native forest towards the Konini Stream above the head of the Mangatangi Dam (Hunuas largest dam). This first section of Rata is fast, soft and very runnable but it pays to not get too excited here as the ridge drop off is very steep and this is a quite an unmaintained tramping track. You'll also thank me for this advice once you hit the uphill section of a bush bashing 300 vertical metre climb over 1.5kms. Once you've looped back onto Lilburne Rd take a left back down the hill to the start.
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Features of interest
You will run alongside the Upper Mangatawhiri Dam for the majority of this run - a rolled earth Dam completed in 1965. It is one of four dams in the Hunua Ranges and the second largest. The four Hunua dams supply 60% of Auckland water supply.
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 30%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 70%
Upper Mangatawhiri Campground Car Park - Waterline Road Hunua
No Public Transport. Plenty of parking in the campground carpark, usually a few campers and MTBers around so relatively safe but always be vigilant and don't leave valuables in your vehicle. Cars have been known to be broken into here.
There may still be a bit of warning tape around from when the tracks were destroyed by the March 2017 storms but as at March 2018 the track is open. Check the Hunua Ranges website prior to starting to check current track status.
At the start of the climb on the Rata track the orange makers go missing for a hundred metres or so. This is not much but the bush is very, very dense here. At this point a huge god-like Kauri is a good landmark to keep you oriented. Follow what is the only obvious path here until the makers are visible again, if you have traveled more than 100m go back to the Kauri and start over.
Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map.
Ironically very little - It is not permitted to drink from the dam and it is usually quite silty anyway
After heavy rain there are a couple of creek crossings along the Rata track that can become quite deep so don't attempt if you are alone, Track conditions are well advertised on the council Hunua web pages
Take extra care on the descent down Rata Ridge, The dense bush I find gives the illusion of safety but the ridge drop off is very steep and in the places the track unstable so if you are a little inexperienced don't be put off just take it easy and you will be fine.
Post run indulgence
Calum's Bakery Papakura
3 Robb Street, Papakura
Best pies going - Regularly voted best bakery in Auckland
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